by Gideon 

November 25, 2021

dating a narcissist

In this post, we’re looking at signs you’re dating a narcissist and being mind-controlled, and what to do about it if you are.

Firstly, as with most things you want to change, let’s start with awareness and ask the question: “Are you dating a narcissist who is controlling you?”

You may not realize it, but this person may be affecting your mind and how you think about yourself and the world in general – not because you want to but because you’ve fallen victim to their twisted mind games.

Now, before you’re too hard on yourself, understand that it’s easy to love or fall in love with a narcissist.

They’re never boring and are often physically attractive, charismatic, and sexually appealing.

You can easily be drawn to their intelligence, entertaining personality, special talents, or professional success.

However, make no mistake, dating a narcissist can be very dangerous to your mental and general health, self-esteem, other relationships, career, and wellbeing.

A narcissist doesn’t care about anything but himself or herself, so controlling you is just part of their warped game.

Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

According to PsychologyToday.com, narcissists have a prominent place in the popular imagination, and the label “narcissist” is widely deployed to refer to people who appear too full of themselves.

There’s also a growing sense that narcissism is on the rise around the world, especially among young people, although most psychological research does not support that notion.

Narcissism is properly viewed on a spectrum. The trait is normally distributed in the population, with most people scoring near the middle, and a few at either extremes.

The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) developed by Robert Raskin and Calvin Hall (1979), is the most commonly used measure of this trait. Scores range from 0-40, with the average tending to fall in the low to mid-teens.

Narcissism is characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others, a need for excessive admiration, and the belief that one is unique and deserving of special treatment.

dating a narcissist

If you encounter someone who consistently exhibits these behaviours, you may be dealing with a highly narcissistic individual.

Narcissism does not necessarily represent a surplus of self-esteem or of insecurity; more accurately, it encompasses a hunger for appreciation or admiration, a desire to be the centre of attention, and an expectation of special treatment reflecting perceived higher status.

However,

What’s the difference between narcissism and pathological narcissism?

According to Mayoclinic.org, Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is one of several types of personality disorders which is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs.

People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favours or admiration they believe they deserve.

They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.

NPD is essentially characterized by a sense of grandiosity, the need for attention and admiration, superficial interpersonal relationships, and a lack of empathy. It also often accompanies other psychiatric disorders and can be difficult to treat.

9 Traits of a narcissist and dating a narcissist signs

Emedicinehealth.com highlights nine specific traits or core features of a narcissist which are:

Grandiosity

An exaggerated sense of self-importance.

Feeling superior to others and that one deserves special treatment.

Feelings are often accompanied by fantasies of unlimited success, brilliance, power, beauty, or love.

Excessive need for admiration

Must be the centre of attention.

Often monopolize conversations.

Patients feel slighted, mistreated, depleted, and enraged when ignored.

Superficial and exploitative relationships

Relationships are based on surface attributes and not the unique qualities of others.

People are only valued only to the extent they are viewed as beneficial.

Lack of empathy

Severely limited or totally lacking ability to care about the emotional needs or experiences of others even loved ones.

Identity disturbance

Sense of self is highly superficial, extremely rigid, and often fragile.

Self-stability depends on maintaining the view that one is exceptional.

Grandiose sense of self is easily threatened.

Patients retreat from or deny realities that challenge grandiosity. 

Difficulty with attachment and dependency

Relies on feedback from the environment.

Relationships only exist to support a positive self-image.

Interactions are superficial.

Intimacy is avoided. 

Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom

When attention and praise are not available, patients feel empty, bored, depressed, or restless.

Vulnerability to life transitions

Difficulty maintaining reality-based personal and professional goals over time.

Compromises required by school, jobs, and relationships may feel unbearable.

Young adults may have a “failure to launch.” 

Narcissistic relationship pattern

According to Darlene Lancer’s article on PsychologyToday.com, because a narcissist does not think in the manner of another, it’s important to make no assumptions when dating a narcissist.

That is why it is critical to grasp the narcissist’s psychology.

dating a narcissist

While some narcissists want long-term relationships, the majority, particularly those who are single, are only interested in the short term.

Relationships are viewed as transactions that benefit them as long as their narcissistic wants are met.

While narcissists lack empathy, they have developed emotional intelligence, which enables them to notice, express, comprehend, and manage their emotions.

Additionally, female narcissists are flirty and may entice men with their beauty and sex appeal, whereas male narcissists frequently beguile others with extravagant gifts, exquisite food, and a posh lifestyle.

Some narcissists also engage in love-bombing, showering their spouses with attention-grabbing verbal, physical, and material gestures of “love.”

It is critical to understand, however, that a relationship with a narcissist evolves on the narcissist’s terms.

They crave control, and before you realise it, you’ve given them the ability to dictate when, when, what, and with whom you do.

Perhaps we could even call this narcissistic mind-control (discussed more below).

This method of mind control is especially dangerous for codependents, who readily give up themselves, their friends, and activities in new relationships in order to satisfy their need for acceptance and love.

dating a narcissist

This is especially true during the early phases of dating, when we may refrain from expressing anything that could jeopardise the relationship or cause too much disruption.

However, by refusing to disagree and expressing disappointment, annoyance, or hurt sentiments during these early stages, we risk progressively disappearing and eventually succumbing to the narcissist’s belief system and desires.

When dating a narcissist it’s easy to effectively succumb to their mind control in the same manner that cult members succumb to narcissistic cult leaders.

Pleasing a narcissist only serves to satiate their wants, which makes codependents and narcissists an unsettling but ideal combination.

However, some narcissists confess openly that they struggle with relationships and intimacy.

They may even go to great lengths to obtain your approval in order to meet their wants, rather than developing a relationship based on your knowledge, which they are uninterested in.

Additionally, narcissists frequently exhibit spurts of fury or rage, which serves to raise their status in their own and your views.

Certain narcissists are also dogmatic in order to maintain their superiority, and when their superior status cannot be maintained through charm and boasting, or when their partner begins to complain, the narcissist frequently resorts to devaluing their partner in order to maintain a sense of superiority.

When a spouse expresses concern about the narcissist’s behaviour, narcissists frequently claim that they are only acting to be helpful or that the partner is overly sensitive.

Additionally, when control is abused, narcissists may begin questioning you about your other relationships and interactions with family, our therapist, and friends. further isolating you.

Mind-control of narcissists

What does mind control entail?

The simplest definition of mind control is the process of brainwashing and persuasion used to seize control of another person’s mind.

Mind control is a term that refers to manipulative strategies used to assist a person in influencing their brain and behaviour.

It can take various forms, but narcissists are adept at utilising this approach to exert control over you.

Coercive persuasion specifically is a significant component of mind control.

This is when they employ a variety of ways to coerce someone into doing their bidding. The victim is subjected to great stress and worry as a result of the persuasion.

dating a narcissist

Subtle control

Narcissists are skilled at using subtle control to the point where you are unaware you are doing what they desire. ​

Narcissists manipulate you through the use of trigger phrases.

Several typical phrases include disappointment and declarations of their emotions.

They may serve as a reminder of how you should behave and think.

Signs of a narcissist’s mind control

Certain narcissists are adept at concealing their true nature.

Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • A narcissist who has gained control of his or her mind is unconcerned about your emotions or misery.
  • A narcissist will employ a number of emotional and other manipulative strategies in order to coerce you into doing or thinking something.
  • A narcissist may manipulate you through flattery and love. This, in conjunction with violence and anger, will be utilised to exert control over you. Additionally, the victim is separated from others, which allows the narcissist to manage him or her more easily.
  • The narcissist will attempt to sow confusion and uncertainty in the victim’s life that she has no idea what to expect and lives in perpetual fear. This also confers more control on the narcissist, as they get to pick how things are handled. The victim is left so terrified and perplexed that they are unable to flee.
  • A narcissist frequently employs strategies such as gaslighting and transferring blame.

How to break free from a narcissist’s mind control

It is rarely easy to free oneself from a narcissist’s mind control.

In some instances, victims require outside involvement and assistance to flee.

You may require assistance from a trustworthy family member, friend, or therapist in order to design an escape plan. Sustaining support is critical.

Physically avoiding the narcissist may also not be sufficient to free oneself from his or her influence. In fact, any form of communication, including phone calls or texts, might reintroduce you to their control.

dating a narcissist

After dating a narcissist, it’s critical to realise that recovery and healing will take time.

Your self-esteem and confidence might have been destroyed.

Your ability to make independent decisions may be harmed.

Ultimately, under the narcissist’s control and desires, your individuality virtually vanishes over time which can hugely impact you as a person.

Sadly, in certain circumstances, after escaping one narcissist, a person can often seek out another. This tragic trend has the potential to reoccur, thus it is critical not to fall into it.

Apart from these few key thoughts around dating a narcissist, I also appreciate PsychCentral.com’s eight strategies for coping with narcissistic behaviour in your relationship:

1. Become knowledgeable about narcissistic personality disorder.

Understanding the illness is one of the most effective methods to shield yourself from the emotional anguish associated with being in a relationship with a narcissistic personality.

2. Avoid exaggerating your partner’s virtues.

As with any other relationship, it’s critical to avoid idealising the other person and instead view them for who they truly are, including their less-than-pleasant times.

This implies that you should consider how they treat other people, how they speak about former relationships, and how they act around you when they are upset.

It’s critical to have reasonable expectations for what you can receive out of your relationship.

This includes refraining from excusing their behaviour when you are hurt.

3. Communicate plainly how their actions affect you

Because narcissists are less likely to be aware of how their acts influence others, it is critical that you voice your concerns.

Remaining silent just for the purpose of “maintaining the peace” may ultimately work against you.

It’s also critical to anticipate a strong reaction or defensive attitude when speaking with them.

4. Establish clear boundaries

Continuing from the last point, some narcissistic individuals may believe they have the right to intrude on every aspect of your life.

To them, your primary goal in life may be to meet their demands. They may be unaware that you have your own needs.

Establishing boundaries, therefore, is critical for maintaining a successful relationship.

Perhaps your partner texts or calls you often while you’re out with friends, competing for your attention.

They may even become enraged and accuse you of failing to pay them the attention they require at the time.

Then, it is critical to clarify your boundary.

Anticipate opposition, but attempt to maintain your composure.

5. Avoid internalising hurtful remarks

It is critical to embrace the notion that their acts do not reflect your character.

These are often symptomatic of a personality disorder.

Taking criticisms and insults personally will soon undermine your self-esteem and confidence.

Increasing the thickness of your skin can assist you in maintaining a healthy sense of self and fair expectations for your relationship.

This does not mean that inappropriate behaviour should be overlooked.

Even if they have a mental health illness, they do not have the right to abuse or humiliate you on a consistent basis.

6. Establish a support system

Maintaining existing connections and cultivating new ones can help you find emotional contentment outside of your relationship.

As previously stated, some individuals with NPD may attempt to isolate you.

They may attempt to maintain dominance and control by constantly vying for your attention.

This may make sustaining other relationships difficult at best.

Consider, though, that you, too, require attention and support.

If you are not receiving sufficient benefit from the connection, you have the right to seek it elsewhere.

7. See a  therapist

Regardless of whether your partner is receiving therapy for a mental health illness, it may be beneficial for you to consult with a therapist as well.

A therapist can provide direction and assistance in addition to assisting you in learning about and comprehending your partner’s narcissistic personality.

Additionally, a mental health professional can assist you in recognising when your partner engages in manipulation or other narcissistic behaviours, as well as when this conduct crosses the line into abuse.

8. If you wish to leave, prepare in advance.

It can be incredibly tough to end a relationship with a narcissist.

Certain narcissistic individuals may also have difficulty letting you go without continually attempting to draw you back in. In some situations, they may like to have the last say as well.

Nevertheless, it may be vital to prepare in advance and articulate your reasons for leaving.

Though it may appear to be a successful method of behaviour modification, threatening to leave and then failing to do so may backfire.

It may endow them with additional authority and reinforce the notion that they are not required to change.

Consider declaring your intention to leave only when you are truly prepared to do so.

Final Thoughts

Dating a narcissist can be soul-crushing.

The level of mental control exercised by a narcissist is oftentimes mindboggling.

It is unreal the lengths to which some will go to exert control over others.

They have the ability to convince you of anything and to cause you to mistrust your own memories.

They have the ability to penetrate your mind with a single phrase.

Take care of yourself by understanding how to deal with a narcissist efficiently.

And speak to a mental health expert as soon as possible if you need support.

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) focused on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He is currently pursuing further graduate Psychology studies at Massey University while working as a relationship and dating blogger the majority of the time. He has been married to his wife for over fifteen years and is the father of two children.

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